“Julius Caesar,” which tells the story of a highly praised Roman general after he returns home after winning loads of battles in Spain, is one of playwright William Shakespeare’s most famous plays.
In this play, a group of conspirators (people who plot and scheme bad things) plans to murder Caesar to prevent him from taking over all the land as a supreme ruler.
One of the most lasting ideas from this play relates to the “ides,” or middle, of March.
In Act One, Scene One, a soothsayer (one with the supposed ability to see into the future) warns Caesar, “Beware the ides of March.”
The soothsayer even repeats himself, but Caesar ignores him, calling him “a dreamer.”
In Act Two, Scene Two, Calphurnia, Caesar’s wife, tells Caesar she believes in these omens (predictions or warnings), saying:
“Caesar, I never stood on ceremonies
Yet now they fright me.”
This essentially means, “I didn’t believe in superstition before, but now I’m scared.”
“With the Ancient Roman calendar the Ides of March fell in the middle of the month, and many religious holidays and festivals revolved around that time,” explains Laurel Springs School’s resident Shakespeare expert Lisa Bechtold, an English and Latin teacher. “Because the soothsayer in the play warns Caesar about that day in particular and being out in public, the fact that the omens and the bad dreams of Calphurnia came true on that exact date creates a lasting impression on the society, as that was the date of Caesar’s assassination.”
Caesar starts to believe all the bad things people have been telling him and, on the ides of March (March 15), at first refuses to go to meet other government officials at the Senate, saying his wife’s visions have scared him too much. But, one of the conspirators who will become one of Caesar’s murderers convinces him to go.
On the way, the soothsayer tries one more time to get Caesar to listen to his warning of danger.
Caesar says, feeling bold and fearless, “The ides of March are come.”
The soothsayer replies, “Ay, Caesar; but not gone,” as if to say, “The day’s not over yet!”
It turns out the soothsayer and Caesar’s wife are right in their forecasts, and Caesar gets murdered at the Senate by his colleagues and friends.
“‘Julius Caesar’ is an enduring drama as it addresses many of the issues that reoccur in a society both historically and in current events: political intrigue, power plays between factions, issues of patriotism and betrayal as well as friendship and loyalty,” Bechtold says. “The play is based off of Ancient Roman history and our current forms of democracy can be linked to the conflicts and compromises made during this era.”
Do you believe one should “beware the ides of March”?